Is your middle magnifying?
I know the feeling. As I’ve reached the ripe old age of 50, it’s gotten harder and harder to keep that middle sucked in. (More on that later.)
Unfortunately, the middles of the rest of the country are spreading as well. According to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the average American’s waistline increased by more than an inch over the past decade.1
And that could spell disaster for your health.
Because if most of your fat rests around your mid-section rather than at your hips, you’re at a higher risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.
BMI may be BS
What’s worse? Even if you’re normal weight by another measurement, you still could be in danger of death. Many people use the body mass index, or BMI, to track whether they’re at a healthy weight.
But BMI measures your weight in relation to your height. And that’s it. It fails to take into account the distribution of fat throughout the body. And, as I’ve said, where your weight settles is more important than the weight itself in terms of health.
And having a normal BMI doesn’t necessarily protect you. In the Nurses Health Study, normal-weight women (with BMIs less than 25) with a waist of 35 inches or higher had 3 times the risk of death from heart disease, compared to normal-weight women whose waists were smaller than 35 inches.2
What is it about abdominal fat that makes it a strong marker of disease risk? The fat surrounding the liver and other abdominal organs — or, in doctor-speak, “visceral fat” — releases fatty acids, inflammatory agents and hormones that ultimately lead to higher LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, blood glucose and blood pressure.
Let’s go to the tape
So how do you properly measure your waistline? To do it right:
- 1. Find the top of your hip bone and the bottom of your ribs.
- 2. Breathe out normally.
- 3. Place the tape measure midway between these 2 points and wrap it around your waist.
- 4. Check your measurement.
Your health is at high risk if:
- You’re a woman with a waist circumference of about 34.5 inches.
- You’re a man with a waist circumference of about 40 inches.
Unfortunately, as we age, our fat tends to park itself around our middle. One reason for that is the stress hormone cortisol, which rises as we get older.
Cortisol’s role in the body is to mobilize energy by tapping into your body’s fat stores and moving fat from one location to another… or to deliver it to tissues such as working muscles.
The problem is that when we feel anxious or are under severe stress for a prolonged amount of time (and, let’s face it, when are we not under severe stress?) … cortisol will move fat from storage deposits and relocate it to fat cell deposits deep in your abdomen.
If you’re in the danger zone …
A lifestyle change incorporating regular exercise and a whole-foods, reduced-calorie diet is critical to escape abdominal fat. Here are some tips to get you started on the right track:
Get movin’: In addition to regular aerobic exercise (walking, running, cycling, swimming), consider high-intensity interval training to maximize your calorie and fat burn. Alternate short bursts of intense exertion with short periods of recovery. (More on that here.)
Build muscle: Muscle helps your body burn more fat. Use your own body weight for resistance or incorporate weights to help turn up the fat-burn.
Cut out sweeteners and refined carbs: Highly processed carbohydrates are commonly called “white” carbohydrates. White bread, white flour and white rice top the list. Avoid table sugar, corn syrup, honey and other added sweeteners, which spike blood sugar, drive insulin production and increase fat storage.
Limit saturated fats: Avoid processed foods, which typically are loaded with saturated fat, and reduce your intake of high-calorie animal products such as butter, cream, whole milk and high-fat meats.
Power up the protein: Eat more low-fat dairy, ﬁsh, lean meats, beans, nuts/seeds and vegetables to maintain your muscle and keep you satisfied. When you’re in a pinch, consider RealMealGF, a nutrient-dense, protein-packed vanilla or chocolate shake to help control hunger and reduce cravings. It is also rich in protein to help you protect lean muscle mass while you lose body fat.
Stop the stress loop. Try meditation, yoga or even a stress-management course. Deep breathing also helps lower the amount of cortisol throughout the body.
As a busy father of 4, I tend to stress more than most. But I’ve found an herb that has been a godsend to almost every stressed-out person I have recommended it to.
The herb is called Rhodiola rosea. It’s an adaptogen … which means it helps your body adapt to stress. Even more important, it helps you feel like “you” again.
Rhodiola rosea is included in our Weight Loss Formula No. 1. Along with 2 proven weight-loss ingredients (each clinically shown to accelerate weight loss twice as fast as diet alone), this stress-reducing compound can have dramatic effects.
If you are interested in giving it a try, please check out the link below.
Steven Sisskind, M.D.
1. Ford ES, Maynard LM, Li C. Trends in mean waist circumference and abdominal obesity among US adults, 1999-2012. JAMA. 2014;312(11):1151-1153. PMID: 25226482.
2. Zhang C, Rexrode KM, van Dam RM, Li TY, Hu FB. Abdominal obesity and the risk of all-cause, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality: sixteen years of follow-up in US women. Circulation. 2008;117(13):1658-1667. PMID: 18362231.